Dave S. SoDo
As we cross over the threshold of winter’s frosty, unforgiving doorway, the collective attitude surrounding us is one of deflation and an impending dormancy in which many of us lie down, defeated, wondering if we can lick our wounds, decompress, and restore ourselves enough to bring any semblance of order and solace into a new year on this planet. Fortunately for us, there is still music, and all of the comfort and courage that it instills in and provides to its listeners. Enter, New York’s rocksteady revivalists, The Frightnrs, with their recent powerhouse debut full-length, “Nothing More To Say.” With it comes a deep breath of satisfaction – an exaltation, however fleeting, of having found a true sonic wonder as refreshing as it is authentic in capturing the brilliance of Jamaica’s prized roots reggae past.
The sheer soul and passion at display perfectly compliment its Daptone Records home, as evident in songs such as the album opener, “All My Tears”. You would be hard-pressed to find such genuine facets of songwriting in virtually any contemporary reggae act; tight production with no gimmicks or excessive novelties, majestic bellows of pristine harmonizing lead and backing vocals, all amidst a singular, intensively evocative tone. Each song stands on its own, confidently, showcasing a relatively young band deserving respect and acclaim for its definitive grasp of legitimized reggae nostalgia. Upon listening to these songs, you would not be in error in thinking that this is a remastered classic album from the likes of The Heptones, Delroy Wilson, or The Mighty Diamonds. Masterfully recorded and performed, this album does, indeed serve as “a testament”, as its press release suggests, to a time when lyrics and rhythms coalesced so remarkably well there was a tangible, visceral spirituality cast into its musicianship.
Bittersweet melodies engulf the senses as vocals and instrumentals surf confidently downstream songs that describe love, its pining, its loss, and its reflection. Consequently, it is difficult to adequately dissect this album without touching upon the dismay felt at the band’s lead singer and songwriter passing away from ALS just a few months before the album’s release. While driving down the road listening to the album, recently, I wondered if a follow-up album, with a new singer at the helm, would prove healthy for a band having released such a cohesive statement album as flawless and well-timed as “Nothing More To Say,” let alone necessary.
The album’s closer track, “Dispute”, seems to hint at a willingness to learn from mistakes and try again, with one’s newfound hindsight and experience, albeit ambiguously. There is uncertainty and discomfort at parting ties with someone you once loved and having their image remain as you take what you have gained from their love and filter it into a new relationship. The unclear haze of mood set by the nuanced piano keys paired with the shadowy chorus of “Don’t Wanna Go / But I Can’t Unknow / What You’ve Shown To Me” makes for a mystifying and certainly unique emotional comedown for an album that set out from the start to wear its heart on its sleeve.
Perhaps, the album’s closing sentiment is a meditation on life – that there is no definitive emotional catharsis, but a marbled amalgam of thoughts, experiences, and decisions that lead off endlessly in various directions with consequences that both help and hinder our future selves. Whatever various meanings can be drawn from the album, one thing is for certain: it is possible to take the sanctity of the old and not only recreate, but revitalize it in a contemporary context, for a new audience. In this rare feat, with “Nothing More To Say,” The Frightnrs have unequivocally done so.